Back in Egypt blues

I had plenty of time to reflect on things on the flight back. The plane was two thirds empty, probably an accurate reflection on the current state of tourism in Egypt. I read a National Geographic article speculating that genetics might explain why some people are compelled to seek out distant horizons. I cogitated on my restless genes as the golden light of a beatific sunset suffused the cabin.

A year ago I was also leaving England in a haze of emotion intensified by a hangover. The anticipation of the unknown was replaced this time by weariness and wariness.

Downtown Cairo

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Recent interview on NewstalkZB

For those who are interested, I was recently interviewed on New Zealand radio station NewstalkZB about the constitutional referendum in Egypt. I haven’t brought myself to listen to it though…



No strangers in the land of Egypt

The Torah (the first five holy books of the Jewish faith) encourages Jews to take care of strangers, reminding them that they too were once strangers in the land of Egypt. Since biblical times, Jews have lived in Egypt, making the Egyptian Jewish community one of the oldest in the world. Today, millennia after the arrival of Jews, the community is a fraction of it its former size. While there once tens of thousands living in vibrant communities, today a bare handful remain. They steadfastly hold on to their heritage and tradition, both as Jews and Egyptians.

Every major festival, the community gathers together to celebrate their faith, and as the Torah prescribes, at every festival they welcome strangers; whether they are foreign Jews visiting or living in Egypt, or diplomats and other well-wishers of other faiths. During the recent Jewish festival of Rosh Hashanah, or Jewish new year, I attended a service at the Adly Street synagogue in downtown Cairo.

Continue reading at the Daily News Egypt.

Another night in Cairo

The boys were showing off as they wove through traffic on their bicycles. As they pulled up next to me I caught their attention by raising my camera, as if to say “hey, do that again.” They happily obliged and rode in front of me holding hands and waving.

Ahead the traffic slowed but the boys didn’t notice. Too late they split apart, one boy weaving between two cars, the other trying to slow his bike by dragging his feet. He wobbled as he approached the slowing traffic and then, as he passed it, slipped. His bike and his leg went under a battered white hatchback. Its back wheel unceremoniously crumpled them both with a thud. The boy yelled and the car stopped. A man got out yelling. The boy hobbled up onto on leg and started yelling back. A crowd of men quickly gathered, all yelling.

My driver quickly pulled a U-turn and drove away, afraid of me being inculpated. I don’t know what happened to the boy or the driver.

I replied the scene in a loop in my mind for days afterwards.

Uploaded a few more photos recently. More TK

A new president, what now?

Egypt has a new president and it is its first democratically elected one at that. But what does this mean for the country?

The country held its breath yesterday ahead of the announcement that Mohamed Morsi, from the Muslim Brotherhood, had been declared the winner of a closely contested runoff presidential election.  The sigh of relief that followed might have been less audible than the cheering and chanting coming from Tahrir but there was a real sense of relief and feeling that a turning point may have been reached.

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Ruminations on Egypt

Egypt is at the polls today, in the second day of the presidential elections. It’s unlikely that one candidate will win an outright victory though, so there will probably be a final runoff vote sometime in the near future. Nearly a year and a half after the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak, it’s interesting to look back and consider who has benefited most from the ‘revolution’. Read the rest of this entry »

A fairly typical day

I wake early, sweating; the AC went off some time in the night. Down in the street it’s warm too, though it will be hotter later. Running alongside the railway tracks I sweat more. After ten minutes I meet the first pack of dogs. Docile during the day, in the early morning they roam in packs. You might get past them walking but running is asking for trouble. They chase me in a snarling mob, snapping at my heels. One on one they won’t look you in the eye but when the pack’s together there’s a battle cry. I turn and rush at them, sending them scurrying but provoking further fury. The only drop the pursuit when I stoop to pick up a brick. Shortly afterwards I run down an alley into another pack. This time I don’t manage to scare them off so easily and they are too close to run from. A baying standoff ensues that is only broken by a passing tuktuk. The next dogs I see I’m careful to walk past. Read the rest of this entry »